STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR TRANSPORTATION, WORK AND UTILITIES
HONOURABLE KYE M. RYMER
AT THE SIXTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE
OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON PROGRESS OF MINISTRY’S PROJECTS
Wednesday, March 10th 2021
RALPH T. O’NEAL ADMINISTRATION COMPLEX
Firstly, allow me please to update on the progress of works for the Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Complex. This project is not only an important project for the Government of the Virgin Islands, but also the entire Virgin Islands community.
Mister Speaker, the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities has developed a comprehensive approach to the renovation of the Administration Complex. In brief, it is a four pronged approach as follows:
- Demolition and removal of existing building components
- Ensuring the Complex is watertight and resilient against high winds and undertake repairs to the building cladding
- Design and installation of new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and ICT systems
- Interior outfitting and configuration
Mister Speaker, the demolition works mentioned include the removal of all damaged components such as existing walls, flooring, and other elements to ensure a clean area throughout. The demolition works also includes, the removal of all mold ridden items and mold remediation once the spaces are fully cleared. Mister Speaker to date, we have demolished the majority of office spaces in the West Atrium to include removing all flooring, walls, ceilings and other items. In addition, we have relocated the majority of files located on the West Atrium to a secure location to be managed by the Archives and Records Management Unit under the Deputy Governor’s Office.
The demolition works are currently on hold until the Treasury Department and Inland Revenue Department are relocated to their temporary Fish Bay location. Following their relocation, we will recommence the demolition works, particularly on the East Atrium and basement.
Mister Speaker, ensuring the Administration Complex is watertight is of the greatest importance as it ensures that water is not entering the Complex and impacting the quality of air within the office spaces. To this end my Ministry has completed the full installation of the waterproofing membrane to the Administration Complex roof through the company Professional Roofing. In addition, my Ministry has completed the full installation of skylights replacement through the company Wallan Glass. At present, my Ministry has currently contracted DesignBVI Limited to undertake the replacement of all the exterior glass windows and doors. Once DesignBVI Limited has completed this component of the project we will see a significant transformation to the exterior of the building.
Mister Speaker, my Ministry through the Procurement Unit of the Ministry of Finance has recently released a tender document for the construction of a new basement parking access on the West Atrium; drainage enhancements to the East and West Atriums; and replacement of exterior metal doors on the East Atrium maintenance entrances. This tender will go towards increased drainage within the compound, water infiltration prevention and enhancing the services of the Administration Complex.
Mister Speaker, the original designs of the Administration Complex actually incorporated two basement parking areas, one on the East Atrium and one on the West Atrium. The spaces were assigned and built for the two basement parking areas, but the access road to the basement parking on the West Atrium was never constructed. Mister Speaker, as the basement parking on the West Atrium is still available; we will construct the access road to allow what was originally envisioned by the designers to be fully put in place.
Mister Speaker, my Ministry in conjunction with OBM Limited is finalising designs to repair the exterior building cladding. A close examination of the Administration Complex revealed numerous gashes and substantial damage to the building cladding throughout.
The Administration Complex is clad with External Insulation Finishing System (EIFS) stucco. This EIFS stucco is quite complicated as it includes a foam board layer, and a fiberglass mesh layer in addition to the finish stucco; the design team is working with the product distributor to identify the best solution. It is expected that a tender will be issued by 2nd Quarter of this year for the repair and reinstallation of the stucco. The current focus of my Ministry along with OBMI is to finalise the exterior works to ensure the building is fully watertight and resilient before engaging the interior components of the works. Notwithstanding, preliminary designs are ongoing towards the development of the Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) systems, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems as well as the interior office designs.
Mr. Speaker, I’ll now update this Honourable House and the residents of the BVI on progress to date on our road work projects funded through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) rehabilitation and reconstruction loan facility. Since January 2021, construction teams continued to work at all the major project sites, resulting in significant progress being made over the first two months of this year. My teams at the Ministry and the Recovery and Development Agency to include the countless contractors, continue to work tirelessly to complete these projects as quickly as possible without compromising quality and public safety.
Currently works are being carried out on four major roadways in the BVI – the Ridge Road from Hope Hill to Little Dix Road; Fort Hill above Bob’s Gas station; Great Mountain Road; and Ballast Bay. Works in all areas essentially require the erection of retaining walls where the road has been undermined and erecting safety barriers where needed. Similarly improvements to the drainage systems, to include the installation of bridge culverts at Great Mountain and Ballast Bay to increase drainage capacity, thereby precluding any future flood related damages and road rehabilitation.
Overall, I am pleased to report that the projects are progressing steadily, requiring some necessary road closures and traffic disruptions which have inconvenienced residents and motorists. You have been required to use alternative routes especially at Great Mountain and Ballast Bay, and your Government thanks you, for your continued patience and cooperation. You can appreciate, that these are major and essential road projects and all actions taken have been crucial, to facilitate uninterrupted works and to ensure your safety and that of the construction crews. I have regular conversations with the contractors and the RDA team, for frequent updates on progress and delays to communicate to you the public in a timely manner.
I will now provide you with a detailed update of these ongoing road infrastructure projects.
Great Mountain Site #1 (that is the project closest to the top of Great Mountain) was completed on 27 January 2021. The works that remain on this site is the asphalting, which will be completed as part of the wider asphalting programme that will commence in the upcoming months.
Works at Great Mountain Site #2 (that is the project closest to Huntum’s Ghut) continues to progress well. The full road closure of the Great Mountain road permitted concentrated works to occur and has allowed the construction of a new culvert structure.
The road reopened on February 22, but there is still a requirement for full closures to enable the safe and timely completion of the works. I assure you you will be notified of the dates and times in the coming weeks.
Works at Hope Hill are nearing completion. The drainage component of the project is almost complete as well as the installation of safety barriers at all points. Finishing touches will be made to the barriers within the next two (2) weeks.
Little Dix Hill saw the completion of the most technical component of the works during the second week of January with concrete placement completed to the retaining wall. Works are ongoing to the smaller retaining structures, and this is expected to be completed shortly. Upon which the backfilling to the retaining structure and road resurfacing works will be initiated.
Works at Bob’s Gas Station continue with the excavation for the drainage. This project is proceeding according to schedule and the road will remain open for one lane traffic during peak hours.
At Ballast Bay the demolition of the existing culvert and construction of the new culvert is underway therefore full road closure will be required until early April at which time the new bridge and culvert structure is completed. This is a bit longer than initially envisioned, but the project is complex and thus time consuming. We will keep the residents abreast of the new timelines as the project progresses to completion.
I have received numerous complaints about the condition of the Fish Bay road. The Public Works Department has done some temporary overlay work to improve the road surface. I would like to reassure you that fixing this roadway is a priority of my Government and is part of the CDB funded road projects. Given that the BVI road network is not expansive, we have to take a phased approach to road rehabilitation to ensure that alternate routes remain available as others are fixed. Following the completion of the works at Little Dix Hill and Hope Hill we will commence the procurement process for Fish Bay road. Additionally, repairs to the section of the Long Trench road that was damaged following the passage of Hurricane Irma, will begin following the completion of the Bob’s Gas Station road project.
I would like to remind the public that slope stabilisation and road rehabilitation works currently being executed in the Territory are detailed and complex in nature. It is critical that we have properly engineered road infrastructure that will withstand the forces of Mother Nature and continual use. As a result considerable planning and precision have been employed for these projects enabling the BVI to benefit from a more resilient road network.
With that said I would like to thank the people of this Territory for their patience and understanding as road rehabilitation works continue throughout the Territory. I implore you to traverse these areas cautiously and follow the directions of the designated traffic wardens.
I would also like to make a special appeal to the scooter and motorbike riders. The roads that are closed are closed, for the safety of the community; and you must obey all signs and instructions of the traffic wardens. When you disobey them you are putting yourself and others at serious risk of injury and God forbid anything worse.
In addition motorists are admonished to stay informed by way of the traffic advisories and notices, disseminated through the various social and media outlets, specifically the Government and RDA’s Facebook and Instagram pages and websites.
Mister Speaker, my Ministry has been working assiduously on recommencing the long outstanding and critical project for the residents of East End/Long Look. We are well on the way with the preparation of the staging area which is located in Paraquita Bay.
The staging area is critical to the project, as it will be the area where the materials are stored for implementation; the fill material stockpiled; and the excavated material sifted for reuse. This is as a result of the way in which material was previously deposited at the site post Irma, where significant effort was required to assess, sort and stockpile material for reuse into the sewerage project and elsewhere.
Mister Speaker as a result of our preliminary sorting and inventory control efforts, we were able to identify High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipes required for the installation of force main lines for the Parham Town to Long Swamp sewer installations. This represents a substantial savings to the Government of the Virgin Islands by averting the procurement of these pipes for the project. We will be setting out to fence the staging area, procure containers for storage of fittings and material and conducting a final inventory of material available at the Paraquita Bay site.
Mister Speaker, in addition, my Ministry has developed designs for a sifting and sorting system of excavated material during the main line sewerage works. This also represents savings as any usable excavated material can be reused as fill material after the installation of sewer lines. It is expected that the works to install this last segment of the HDPE force main lines will commence at the end of this month, March. These will be done by local contractors.
Mister Speaker, Cabinet approved the amendment to the Financial Management act that stipulated that the Ministry of Finance establishes a Contractor Registration and Classification System database whereby contractors, heavy equipment operators and other vendors can register for participation in this East End & Long Look Sewage project. This database will be the main source of which contractors are selected through an evaluation process for works on this project. My ministry and I continue to impress upon contractors to register to be a part of the various Government projects and programmes.
Mister Speaker, it is expected that civil works will commence at the end of this month, March with the installation of approximately 950 linear feet of eight (8) inch force main lines. It is anticipated that the project will last for a period of twelve (12) months.
Mister Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to address our most critical resource to livelihood, water. The water infrastructure in the Territory has been under stress for decades. The infrastructure is aged and dilapidated and as a result, frequent repairs of leaks and water line breakages have become the modus operandi of the Water & Department on a daily basis. Water distribution is further complicated by the typography of the Territory, with the exception of Anegada which suffers with other water quality issues. The mountainous terrain on the remaining islands makes pressure management challenging. We cannot continue to have residents living without a reliable potable water supply. For this reason, with the support of the Ministry, the Water & Sewerage Department has placed much emphasis on improving and enhancing the water distribution networks.
The plan for an island with our typography is to reduce the pressures with Pressure Reducing Valves, leak detection exercises, leak repairs with resilient materials, installation of air release valves and meterisation.
Currently, water distribution improvement can be realised in Sea Cow’s Bay and the surrounding communities. This was made possible with a water optimisation project that included a leak detection exercise; waterline repairs; the installation of a pressure reducing station (to reduce the reoccurrence of leaks); and the installation of pumps (to enable water to reach homes at higher elevations in the area).
Mister Speaker, other communities have benefited from this leak detection and repair programme and the department is now able to supply water to more residents at better pressures and distribution consistency.
Our next focus is to address the water situation in the Chalwell and Cane Garden Bay areas. Although they are receiving water it is not yet reliable and some places only receive water once or twice a week. This is something we want to remedy in the coming months, as it is not acceptable.
Additionally, the Reservoir Restoration Project which commenced in 2018 in the aftermath of the hurricanes is now approaching the end. The Carrot Bay and Long Bush reservoir restoration works are well underway. Upon completion of the Carrot Bay Reservoir, the Zion Hill restoration works will commence.
Mister Speaker, while the Water & Sewerage Department collects an average of Five Million Dollars ($5,000,000.00) per annum in revenues from sale of potable water, it pays to the water suppliers approximately Twenty-Seven Million Dollars ($27,000,000.00) per annum which results in a gross variance of some Twenty-Two Million Dollars ($22,000,000.00) each year. When calculated this equates to the Wand Sewerage Department recouping a mere 14% of its operating expenditure when compared to the current losses in excess of 80% of revenues.
In an effort to curb the margin of loss, in the first instance, Five thousand three hundred and twenty-five (5325) ultrasonic digital water meters with the capability to be read remotely were purchased and are being installed throughout the Territory, thereby replacing the existing analog meters. This will lead to a much more efficient and effective water accountability and billing system.
Mister Speaker, over the past few months the ministry and the department have been bombarded with calls from customers who have been experiencing a myriad of water issues pertaining to but not limited to their water bill. This and other issues are of real concern to me and my ministry and we are working feverishly to solve them. In an effort to effectively and efficiently address all customers concerns in a timely manner, the department has optimised its Customer Service team that will focus on receiving queries, investigating situations and providing options to remedy these issues. In recognition of the heightened challenges the customers are experiencing, the Government of the Virgin Islands has placed a three month grace period on water disconnections Territory wide. This grace period took effect on January 18 and is slated to expire on April 30.
This period is to allow customers the opportunity to settle outstanding balances. This Government understands the challenges that the residents have experienced as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we decided to add some leniency in the regularly scheduled disconnections. During this period, we continue to encourage customers of the Water and Sewerage Department including those with bill discrepancies to make arrangements to bring their accounts current.
The Department has been refocused to a customer oriented establishment. While we sort through these issues one by one, we ask for some patience and a bit of understanding but rest assured your issue or issues will be listened to, noted, and addressed in a timely manner. Customers are encouraged to call the ministry and or the department and they will be directed to the appropriate personnel who will ensure that their matter is addressed.